Outdoors

U3A Falconry Course

U3A members share their experience and knowledge with each other to share skills and learn new ones.

I recently had my first experience of a U3A Summer School run by the South East U3A Forum at Chichester University. My course choice was Falconry and I was certainly not disappointed. Our group of sixteen were fortunate to have Dawn Simpson as our excellent tutor over the four days. Firstly we listened avidly to Dawn’s experiences in handling and training falcons and hawks. She introduced us to Anukis, her Saker falcon who sat peacefully on her perch next to Dawn during our classroom-based sessions. Anukis was the main bird to be flown for our practical sessions outdoors.

Progressing from the fascinating history of falconry to breeding them in the UK, we were shown images of different types of falcons and hawks with discussion about the characteristics of each, a video about the breeding of them and also one showing how hawks are used in Saudia Arabia.

Dawn taught us the differences between falcons and hawks – something that had mystified most of us. She was very approachable and as she imparted her vast knowledge upon us during the theory sessions, we were able to ask questions, which were answered with enthusiasm and great examples.
Our first practical session involved handling Anukis and getting her to fly from one to another at the back of the classroom. Anukis wasn’t keen on this so we moved outside where we had more success. For two sessions Dawn’s partner brought one of their Harris hawks in for us to handle and fly outside. Both birds were easy to handle but became bored with flying back and forth, even though their crops (the crop is a bird’s stomach) were empty of food to start with. However, we had plenty of handling time with both stunning birds which gave plenty of photographic opportunities.

Throughout the course Dawn introduced us to many falconry terms, most of which we remembered. The course ended with an interesting Q&A session and Dawn giving us some handouts on topics covered, together with a list of extra resources to investigate – books to read, shows to see, places to visit and You Tube examples to watch. She certainly instilled a keenness in all of us to find out more about falconry opportunities. A great time was had by all – thank you Dawn.